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Gruden (Muscles Yankee) added trotting hopples a few weeks ago after enduring breaking trouble in previous months. The Rene Allard trainee won the qualifier at Pocono with hopples on and was dynamic at Saratoga Casino Hotel last week while winning his local debut in 1:55. Gruden moved up in company on Tuesday night as he took part in the $12,000 Winners Over. The five year old trotter who scored nine wins in seventeen tries in 2017 was bet down as the 1-9 favorite on Tuesday Leading driver Billy Dobson moved Gruden out to the early lead, paying a bit of a stiff price to get to the top. Parked at the start, Gruden crossed over to cut the mile after guiding the way through a first quarter of 27 seconds. The big favorite had little difficultly opening up a big lead but was beginning to tire as a pair of dangers, Silent Pine (Bruce Cooper) and Entranced (Dan Cappello Jr) were making steady progress towards the leader. Gruden had enough to hang on and win in 1:56 while Silent Pine came up second best. Entranced earned the show spot. Live racing continues on Wednesday evening at Saratoga with a 7:05pm first post. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

A stalled weather front brought us a lot of rain this past week in Northeastern Pennsylvania, leading to a bunch of sloppy tracks at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The geese loved it, as evidenced by the one who managed to actually show up in a photo finish with one of the horses on Sunday night. As for the horses, there were some strange occurrences and bizarre outcomes, showing that you never can tell in this sport. Here are the finest performances, as we hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: HURRICANE BEACH On Sunday night, it poured rain on and off, leading to an ever-changing track condition that eventually settled on sloppy for the end of the program. In the final race, a $17,000 condition pace for five-year-old and younger winners from three to seven races, Hurricane Beach, a new addition to the Rene Allard barn, was made the 2-1 favorite from post position #8 in a field of nine. Other than expecting it to be a competitive field with some excellent pacers, there wasn't anything in the ledger to suggest we were in line for something special. Hurricane Beach, a four-year-old gelding who came into the race with a modest record of two wins in nine races this season, had other ideas. Driver Simon Allard cut him loose, and he scorched the mud to the tune of a :25.1 opening quarter. The ridiculously fast number was eye-popping, but there are many horses that can go wild for a quarter-mile. It was the half-mile time that really left us all slack-jawed, as Hurricane Beach tripped the timer in :51.2, a new world record for the fastest ever half on a 5/8-mile oval. On a sloppy track. Hurricane Beach kept up his tear to the three-quarter pole, hitting it in 1:19.3. It was only in the stretch that he began to ease up a little, but by then he was well ahead of the rest of the stunned field. His winning time was 1:49.4, a new career-best and the fastest of the week at Pocono, and he defeated the field by 7 ¼ lengths. For those who stuck around for that closing race on that rainy night, they witnessed something special. Other top pacers include: Big N Bad (George Napolitano Jr., Gareth Dowse), who picked up his second straight claiming handicap win on Saturday night against the highest-priced claimers on the grounds, managing this victory in 1:52.3 in the slop; Attention Hanover (Simon Allard, Steve Salerno), who moved up in class on Sunday night and rallied for his third straight condition win, two of which have come at Pocono with the other at Harrah's, in 1:54 in the slop; and Rockstar Angel A (Brett Miller, Chris Oakes), an Australian invader who made a striking United States debut at Pocono on Tuesday night, winning the featured condition pace for mares in 1:52.4 in the slop. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BOFFIN As veteran trotters go, there are few around who seem to do damage at Pocono every single year they appear quite like this warrior trained by Anette Lorentzon. Now aged eight, Boffin arrived at Pocono in June in a rare slump, having come up empty in four races in the Midwest. Coming to his old stomping grounds immediately energized him, as he handled an $11,000 condition field on June 18 at Pocono to get his first win of the season. That win must have given him a taste, because Boffin followed that up with another victory, this time over a $14,000 group in 1:52.4 on June 30. This past Sunday, he was at it again in the rainy conditions, once again moving up in class to face off with a $17,500 class. Even with the step up the ladder, the bettors were wise to the caliber of this gelding and made Boffin a 3-5 favorite leaving from post position #4 in an excellent field of nine. George Napolitano Jr., who has driven Boffin to many a victory over the years, decided to end the suspense early, as he quickly sent him to the front end. From there, the rest of the field, which was comprised of accomplished trotters, looked like amateurs in his wake. Boffin never really endured any challenge to his supremacy, and he steadily opened up the lead until he came home a 4 ¾-length winner at the end of the mile. His winning time, even in the slop, was a solid 1:54.1, giving him three straight victories. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Uknow What To Do (Anthony Morgan, Rene Allard), who moved up in class on Saturday night and scored his second straight condition win, this one in 1:56.2 in the slop; Alpha D'Urzy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who followed up a win in his U.S. debut at Saratoga with a condition victory at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:57.4 in the off conditions; and Satin Dancer (Matt Kakaley, Travis Alexander), a mare whose win in Sunday night's featured condition trot in 1:53 matched a career-best and represented the fastest trotting mile of the week at Pocono. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CASINO DIRECTOR This pacer driven by Tyler Buter sent the folks home shocked with a condition win in the finale on Monday night at 36-1, paying off $74 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY One of the most consistent performers at Pocono on a regular basis, Kakaley did his usual damage this week, picking up six combined wins in three nights of racing. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GARETH DOWSE There has been no hotter barn on the grounds for the past month or so, and Dowse solidified that hot streak with three more training wins this week. That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs

WASHINGTON, PA, July 17, 2018 - Hempt winner Springsteen, North America Cup runner-up Done Well and Meadowlands Pace runner-up Dorsuduro Hanover lead a field of 16 into the 52nd edition of the $450,000 (est) Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids at The Meadows. Eliminations are set for Saturday, July 21 first post 1:05 PM, while the final headlines a blockbuster Saturday, July 28 card that also features five other Grand Circuit stakes. The Adios Day program begins at noon. The first four finishers in each elimination, plus the fifth-place finisher with higher career earnings, return for the final. Elimination winners will choose their post positions for the final - their selection order will be determined by draw - with all other post positions determined by random draw on Tuesday, July 24. Springsteen, who hasn't had a pari-mutuel start since winning the $500,000 Hempt final on June 30, turned in a sharp July 11 qualifier, winning in 1:52 with a 26.1 final panel. Simon Allard is scheduled to drive the son of Rock N Roll Heaven-American Charm for trainer Rene Allard and owners Allard Racing Inc., Bruce Soulsby, Alan Weisenberg and Kapildeo Singh. He'll leave from the rail in the second elimination. Done Well followed up his sharp performance in the North America Cup with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the Hempt. Trainer Brian Brown has given the son of Well Said-Dagnabit Hanover a breather since then. James Stambaugh, Wingfield Brothers LLC, Milton Leeman and Alan Keith campaign Done Well, who'll have the services of Tim Tetrick when he leaves from post 7 in the first elimination. Dorsoduro Hanover had a monstrous Meadowlands Pace final, overcoming post 10 and closing in 26.4 - despite his 57-1 odds - and was beaten only 1-1/4 lengths by Courtly Choice. The Somebeachsomewhere-Deer Valley Miss gelding has drawn post 3 in the second elimination for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Silva, Purnel & Libby, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Wingfield Five. Matt Kakaley is listed to drive. Burke with four and Tony Alagna with three are the only trainers with multiple entrants. The eliminations will go as races 12 and 13. Here are the fields in post position order with trainers and tentative driving assignments: Elimination 1, Race 12 1. Summer Travel Andrew Harris/David Miller 2. No Easy Day Burke/Kakaley 3. American History Alagna/Yannick Gingras 4. Shadow Cat John Butenschoen/Corey Callahan 5. Bambino Joe Greg Wright, Jr./Aaron Merriman 6. GD Western Joe Burke/Gingras 7. Done Well Brown/Tetrick 8. Wes Delight Mark Harder/Callahan   Elimination 2, Race 13 1. Springsteen Allard/Allard 2. Larry Karr Burke/Gingras 3. Dorsoduro Hanover Burke/Kakaley 4. Hitman Hill Chris Oakes/Brett Miller 5. Thinkbig Dreambig Jimmy Takter/Jordan Stratton 6. Odds On Lauderdale Alagna/Scott Zeron 7. Western Beachboy Christen Pantaleano/Jim Pantaleano 8. Babes Dig Me Alagna/Brett Miller   by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo oversaw the selection of the 24 trotters for the French American Trotting Club, even he was surprised when Alpha d’Urzy showed up to qualify Saturday (July 7) at Yonkers wearing only an open bridle, an ear hood, and trotting boots with no overcheck or poles. The trotter wears less equipment than any horse in trainer Rene Allard’s stable. I said, ‘Joe, it’s because we understand each other. I speak French to him,” Allard said. “He just laughed.” With his minimal equipment, Alpha d’Urzy led at every call of the 1 ¼-mile trial with Jason Bartlett in the sulky. He stopped the timer in 2:32.4 and posted a :29.1 final quarter, besting Aladin du Dollar by 4 ½ lengths. “He trotted a good back-half. He’s good-gaited, he’s straight, and he gets around the turns perfect,” Allard said. “I barely have any equipment on him and he gets around Yonkers perfect. Maybe I just got really lucky. Jason said he was even better on the turns than in the straightaways.” Alpha d’Urzy is an 8-year-old son of Opus Viervil out of Amazone River and sports a 6-for-56 record with 118,550€ earned. He’s one of 22 French geldings who shipped to New York last month for the SOA of NY’s new series, which begins August 5. Two of the 24 trotters were unable to make the trip to America as they got sick and were unable to pass the stringent quarantine testing requirements for importation. The series required 24 participants to buy in at $28,000, with $25,000 allocated to purchasing the horse and $3,000 to travel. Trainers Ray Schnittker, Ron Burke, and Mike Lachance hand-picked the trotters and the horses were distributed to their new connections in a random draw. “I was the first one that sent the check in, as soon as I heard about it,” Allard said. “I’m always into progress and love to see new things happen and be involved in it. I thought it was a great to have a chance to get horses from a different place. I went to the Prix d’Amérique with my father for his 60th birthday and I went to all the farms. I was excited about it, especially knowing they were going to do races just for them.” Although Allard kept his expectations in check, he’s been pleasantly surprised by Alpha d’Urzy so far. The trotter arrived at his stable in great shape and was eager to get to work. “He looked really healthy, really good, he had a nice coat on him, he was in great shape. His front-end is a little narrow, but other than that, he looked good. When I trained him the first time, he looked like he was really fit, really in great shape,” Allard said. “Whoever took care of him for the few weeks before we got him, obviously they did the right thing and kept the horses in good form.” Since Alpha d’Urzy’s arrival in mid-June, Allard has trained the gelding two 1 ½-mile trips. Both times, the trotter impressed without exerting himself. “I trained him the first time and he did it really effortless and he was really fit,” Allard said. “I came back the week after, I trained him faster. I gave him a good back-half, good last quarter and he wouldn’t blow a candle out. He was really fit and really in great shape. I figured there was no sense in waiting, I’d just put him in to qualify.” The quick turnaround came to Allard’s surprise. Accustomed to horses arriving from Australia and New Zealand underweight, stressed, and sick due to the change in seasons from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere, Allard was happy to see Alpha d’Urzy handled his trip across the Atlantic well. “My horse never got sick, never missed a meal. He adjusted really well,” he said. “When he got here, I could have raced three days later, he was perfect. When they got here, I thought it was going to take a while before they were ready. I was even concerned about being ready in the beginning of August for the series, but surprisingly, mine came really great.” Allard’s experience has been shared by trainer Chris Oakes, who received 7-year-old trotter Bioness. The son of Sam Bourbon and Quiradelle D'hilly earned 119,590€ in 40 European starts before shipping to the U.S. When he arrived at Oakes barn, Bioness drew comparisons to Oakes’ $1.2 million earning trotter Homicide Hunter. “I love him, I absolutely love him, loved him right from day one,” Oakes said. “Big strong good-looking horse. I have a horse called Homicide Hunter and that’s who he reminded me of. Even when I trained him I told people, this horse reminds me of ‘Homicide.’ It’s funny because nobody knows what horse you’re going to get, you know nothing about any of them, other than you’re getting a horse. Rene came up and looked at him in the paddock at the qualifiers and he said, ‘this thing looks just like Homicide Hunter.’ ” Oakes found Bioness to be good-gaited, good-mannered, and intelligent. Like Alpha d’Urzy, the trotter wears minimal equipment. “I had no equipment card of any kind. Just a horse: four legs and a tail. You just feel them out as you go,” Oakes explained. “I could see he was sensible, so I ended up going with an open bridle. I could see the way he traveled, he didn’t need any boots at all. I just put a light set of trotting boots on and that was it. He’s very clean-gaited and wears next to nothing. I think we drew a nice horse.” Oakes put Bioness into an American style of training and the gelding responded. Oakes also thinks ample time spent turned out has helped the trotter adjust to his new surroundings. “I basically put him into our American style of training. I’ve got my own farm, so he’ll train and then he gets turned out a lot. I’m sure they’re used to that, they like that and I’m fortunate enough I’ve got my own farm, so they spend a lot of time out in the field just to keep them happy,” Oakes said. “He seems to have adapted really well. I’ve only had him here two or three weeks. I put him right to work and he didn’t skip a beat. He’s happy with his new home and seems to have adapted to our style. It’s going to be a little different than what he’s used to, but he shows he’s got speed.” Bioness qualified last Wednesday (July 4) at Pocono Downs with Oakes’ 20-year-old son Hunter in the sulky. It was Hunter’s first time in a charted race and he made his father proud. Bioness tracked in third throughout the 1-mile trial. Although he was 4-lengths behind Allard-trainee Gruden at the three-quarters, Bioness came home in :28.1 to finish second beaten just a neck. He was individually timed in 1:56.1. I just told him, ‘be careful out there. Make it a good experience for the horse and yourself.’ He’s very conservative with the horse and said if he had asked him he would have won it easy,” Oakes said. “(Hunter) has been training and schooling behind the gate, but never in a real charted race. I’m really very proud of him because he did a really nice job and it went really well and I’m going to let him qualify again this coming week.” Yonkers will host qualifiers exclusively for the French Trotters at the 1 ¼-mile distance July 14 and 21 ahead of the start of the French American Trotting Club Series August 5. The second and third legs of the series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $100,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Vernon, NY - Maxdaddy Blue Chip (Sportswriter) had raced twice in the Open Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel this spring before the Rene Allard trainee went to Pennsylvania to compete for a couple of months. The six year old harness racing pacer returned to the Spa on Saturday night with an Open win and a second place finish to his credit from his starts in May. Maxdaddy Blue Chip made his return to town a winning one as the 1-5 betting favorite in the $14,500 Saturday feature. Reinsman Billy Dobson moved Maxdaddy Blue Chip out to the early lead and together they enjoyed a very comfortable first lap that was paced in 56.2. The favorite never faced a legitimate challenge and lengthened his lead seemingly with every stride before pacing away from his rivals to prevail in 1:51.3 on a beautiful summer night in Saratoga Springs, NY. Deetzy (Jimmy Devaux), who parlayed his pocket ride to victory in last week's Open, again got the two-hole trip on Saturday night but had to settle for a strong second place finish. Longshot Tullow N (Bruce Aldrich Jr) earned the show spot. Maxdaddy Blue Chip, who won fifteen times in 2017, prevailed for the third time in '18. The meet's leading driver, Dobson piloted three winners on the Saturday card. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, July 1, 2018-Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Dube, $7.40) snapped his rivals at the wire Sunday afternoon (July 1st), winning Yonkers Raceway's hot and steamy $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. The weekly trotting feature, commemorating Canada Day in the Lower 48, was not included in the 'French' four-pack which began the card. Rather, the flat-mile festivities saw lass N F Happenstance (Jack Parker Jr.)-assigned outside her half-dozen foes-parked into the second turn and past a :27.1 opening quarter-mile before making the lead. She did rate a :30.1 next substation (:57.2 intermission) as her sister in arms, Weslynn Dancer (Jason Bartlett), moved first-up from fourth. That towed Smalltownthrowdown, unhurried from post position No. 6, within striking distance. N F Happenstance, though, led in and out a 1:26 three-quarters, with a length-and-a-half advantage off the final turn. The leading lady hung tough, but could not stall Smalltownthrowdown. That one edged past late, winning by a neck in 1:55...his fastest purse win time of the season. N F Happenstance held second, with 13-10 favorite DW"S NY Yank (George Brennan) relegated to a pocket third. Weslynn Dancer and Bluebird Jesse (Brent Holland) came away with the minors. For second choice 'Smalltown,' a 5-year-old Cash Hall gelding co-owned (as Allard Racing) by (trainer) Rene Allard, Yves Sarazin, VIP Internet Stable and Bruce Soulsby, it was his third win in eight seasonal starts (20th career victory). The exacta paid $50.50, the triple returned $163 and the superfecta paid $593. Special props to Brennan for a 10-win weekend (four Friday, five Saturday, one Sunday afternoon) over a 30-race span. Sunday's scheduled rendition of the 'New York, New York Double' was cancelled after Belmont Park deferred to the heat and scrapped its card. The next Sunday matinee is July 15st (post time TBA). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

Wilkes-Barre, PA --- Springsteen rocked to a 15-1 upset in Saturday's (June 30) $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where favorite Lather Up went off stride and suffered his first loss in eight starts this year. Springsteen and driver Simon Allard used a three-wide move at three-quarters and overcame Nutcracker Sweet by a head to win in 1:48.3. Hitman Hill finished third. Stay Hungry led the field to the first quarter in :26 before giving the top spot to Dorsoduro Hanover by the half-mile point, which was reached in :53.1. Lather Up, the North America Cup champion, made a first-over move on the backstretch but was unable to get to the front, leaving Springsteen to make a three-wide move as the group hit three-quarters in 1:20.2. In the stretch, Nutcracker Sweet moved to the inside and got the lead, but was unable to hold off Springsteen. Lather Up, who got roughly gaited going around the first turn, went off stride as he came off the final turn and was seventh-placed-eighth in the field of nine. "All I worry about is my horse being nice and relaxed," Allard said. "He's always so angry and wants to go fast. The fact they were going real fast to the half, I never had to grab into him and he was nice and relaxed. Whenever we can tip him whenever he wants to go, that's the thing to do. "We didn't know how good of a 3-year-old he was going to be. We went through a little bit of a problem with him tying up but right now everything is back good. He's ready for a good summer I guess." Springsteen is a son of Rock N Roll Heaven out of American Charm. He has won two of five races this year and five of 19 in his career, good for earnings of $479,423. The colt is owned by Allard Racing, Bruce Soulsby, Alan Weisenberg, and Kapildeo Singh. Springsteen paid $32.60 to win. Max C. Hempt was a renowned Pennsylvania-based breeder, whose horses were known for the prefix "Keystone," as well as a longtime director of the U.S. Trotting Association and Hambletonian Society. He served as the Hambletonian Society president from 1966-1984 and the creation of the Breeders Crown series evolved under his leadership. Hempt, who passed away in 1999, was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1980. The Art Major colt Courtly Choice set the speedy tone for the evening by winning the $75,000 Hempt Pace Consolation in 1:48.4, equaling his mark and setting a national season's record. David Miller spotted fourth with Courtly Choice while I'm A Big Deal and Done Well battled well past a wicked :25.3 opening quarter, with Done Well claiming the top at the three-eighths and rolling on to the :53.2 half. Miller and Courtly Choice, who was the choice of the bettors, quickly got in gear down the backstretch, went by Done Well with no difficulty before the 1:21.1 three-quarter pole, and then finished out on his own, 12-1/2 lengths ahead of his rivals. Courtly Choice, now a winner of $148,596 for trainer Blake MacIntosh and the ownership of Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe, and Touch Stone Farms, evidently has the speed to give with the division's best -- what he still needs to master is how to draw a good post. He had post eight of nine in the North America Cup eliminations, was a troubled fifth, won the Cup Consolation, then drew post nine of nine in the Hempt elimination against Lather Up and had too far to come on the speed-favoring Pocono oval. by Ken Weingartner & PHHA/Pocono Downs    

While Saturday night's Open Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel featured the return of defending Horse of the Year Artful Way, it was a different returnee who wound up prevailing in the $14,500 feature. Somewhere Fancy (Somebeachsomewhere) has been competing at a high level at Yonkers for much of this season and was assigned post five in a six-horse Saturday Open. Billy Dobson piloted the Rene Allard trainee and powered him out to early lead. Part of a speed duel in the early going, Somewhere Fancy set sizzling fractions of 26.3 and 54.4 in the first half. Facing just mild pressure, Somewhere Fancy stepped on the gas and kicked away from his rivals after posting three quarters in 1:23 and cruised to victory in 1:51.1. Panocchio (Gerry Mattison) toughed it out first over and wound up as the runner-up in the Open Pace for the second consecutive week while Lachie Maguire N (Bruce Aldrich Jr) earned the show spot. Artful Way, who was coming from last and got caught very wide in the final half, never wound up being a factor as the race's even money favorite. Somewhere Fancy, who has competed locally in the past, returned $6.20 to win in his first score in the local Open. The exacta and triple paid $40.60 and $116, respectively. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

WILKES-BARRE PA - The 2017 Pacer of the Year at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Maxdaddy Blue Chip, visited the Downs winners circle for the first time in 2018, unleashing his patented late charge to capture the $21,500 feature on Saturday night. The 4-5 favored Sportswriter gelding was well-positioned second-over by driver Simon Allard, then started his surge three-wide midturn and carried it to the wire, which he reached ¾ of a length ahead of Waikiki Beach A. Maxdaddy Blue Chip is trained by Simon's brother and the meet's leading conditioner, Rene Allard, for Allard Racing Inc., Alycon Stable, How's That Stables Inc., and VIP Internet Stables LLC. The track's leading driver, George Napolitano Jr., was honored in the Pocono winners circle early in the evening for earning career driving victory #9000 on Monday night, making him only the 21st North American member of that exclusive club. Then "George Nap" went out and showed he was in a hurry to get to 10,000, scoring eight times on the card, including in the $18,000 claiming handicap pacing feature with the red-hot Major Trick, a gelded son of Art Major who made two speed moves in searing early fractions of 26.2 and 53.4, opened a big lead to the 1:21.4 ¾ pole, then stayed clear by 1¾ lengths to the wire in 1:50.1. The winner of $339,088, a five-time winner in his last six starts, is trained by Hunter Oakes for owner Omar Beiler. Napolitano also won the fastest mile of the night, a 1:48.4 triumph with the world champion (OPG-hmt) Scott Rocks. Finally, Walks Of Life, who was a gallant second while trying to increase his North American-leading 2018 win total to 14, will be doing something that he hasn't done since March 24 - returning to the same barn from which he started the night, in this case that of Team Allard. The tough claimer had been taken from his 12 previous starts, but attracted no claims tonight, and thus that streak is halted one shy of what is believed to be the longest series of a horse being claimed, the 13 purchases transacted for R Gauwitz Hanover in 2015. (But thirteen other horses were claimed on the Saturday card, with $223,750 changing hands.) From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE PA - LMC Mass Gem overcame a double jump in class, post eight, a sloppy track, and being parked 3/8 of a mile before getting the top, surmounting the adversity to post a 1¼-length 1:56.3 triumph in the $17,500 featured trot over a sloppy track Sunday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The Muscle Mass gelding is certainly in the winning grove right now, having taken two straight, three of his last four, and seven of fifteen 2018 starts. Here he defeated Crosbys Clam Bake, who also brushed off covering extra real estate to photo out favored sophomore Whats The Word, facing elders after two straight in the Sire Stakes. Simon Allard, a five-time winner on the night, guided the winner of $215,805 for trainer/brother Rene, the meet leader who added three to his total Sunday, and the partnership of Bruce Soulsby, VIP Internet Stable LLC, Kapildeo Singh, and Earl Hill Jr. Three $17,000 co-features sported two fields of trotters and one of pacers. The first trot was taken by the Glidemaster gelding Joey Pro, who had an explosive last 1/8 to see him come from fifth to take a 2 1/2 length victory in 1:57.1 for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer John Hallett, and owner Mark Wamp. In the other, the brothers Allard combined with another son of sire Muscle Mass, the gelding Zagster, who raced to command at the ¾, then held off a late charge by Critical Mass to take a photo victory, also in 1:57.1. Zagster has now won $165,489 for Allard Racing Inc. and Kapildeo Singh. In the pacing contest, Xpert Bayama grabbed the lead quickly for driver Matt Kakaley, then scooted home in 56 to complete a 1:54.2 victory while 2¼ lengths to the good. The victorious altered son of Up The Credit has won three of his last five for trainer Ron Burke and the omnipresent duo of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

Lovineveryminute (Western Paradise) took her second crack of the season at the Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Friday night. The Rene Allard trainee tried going wire-to-wire in her first start in the $14,500 feature for distaffers earlier in the month but faded late in the mile to a sixth-place defeat. On Friday night, Lovineveryminute blasted off the car early and yielded to the race's favorite Spreester (Frank Coppola Jr). The track's most dominant lady pacer of 2018, Spreester had gone five for seven in the local Open coming into Friday night's try and was thus the 3-5 betting favorite in the race. After cruising through a first half of a quick 56.1, Spreester got tested by a first-over Diamondtoothgertie (Phil Fluet). Those two squared off for better than a quarter of a mile and all the while Lovineveryminute was waiting patiently for the open stretch. Driver Jordan Derue guided Lovineveryminute into the passing lane and the seven year old surged past her rivals to win in 1:52.3, the fastest clocking for any pacing mare thus far this year at Saratoga. Diamondtoothgertie finished second while Spreester had to settle for third. Lovineveryminute returned $7.70 to win and led an exacta and triple that paid $24.60 and $59, respectively. Live racing continues on Saturday night with first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Consolidator (Triumphant Caviar) was making her first start in over three months when she drew the outside post in Sunday's harness racing open trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel.  The Rene Allard trainee won the Yonkers Open back in January but raced only once more before taking time off. Jordan Derue picked up the catch drive behind the five year old mare who went off at odds of 7-2 in what wound up being a six-horse feature following a scratch. Consolidator picked up a second-over trip and fanned off cover turning for home in what wound up being a good stretch drive among several of the participants in the $14,500 Open on Sunday. Consolidator trotted past the boys in the lane and the race's lone lady stopped the timer in 1:57.2. Longshot Tropical Storm Bi (Phil Fluet) finished second while Swan For You (Jimmy Devaux) earned the show spot in a race which saw the odds-on favorite make an early break. Consolidator returned $9.40 to win and led an exacta and triple that paid $104 and $535, respectively. Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post set for 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Millionaire trotter Charmed Life (Majestic Son) made her harness racing seasonal debut on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Rene Allard trainee, who has over $1.3 million in career earnings, had two winning qualifiers as preps for her try in the $12,000 Spa Open on Sunday and wound up as the public's 3-5 betting favorite. Billy Dobson moved Charmed Life out to the early lead and the race's lone lady cruised through a first half in 58 seconds. Feeling just mild pressure, the eight year old classmaster kicked away from her rivals around the final turn before drawing off to win in 1:55.2. The final time matched last week's effort by Open trotter Ulster as the fastest of the season for a trotter at the Spa. On Sunday, longshot Piercewave Hanover (Jordan Derue) sat the pocket to Charmed Life and finished second while Cash Me Out (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot. The exacta and triple in the feature paid $38.40 and $133.50, respectively. Charmed life now owns 31 victories in 128 lifetime starts. Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time of 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

WILKES-BARRE PA - Team Allard continued its torrid form on Wednesday in the third and final "winter training" session before Saturday's 2018 opening night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with harness racing trainer Rene, winner of four of the last five conditioning crowns here, sending out six winners to run his three-card count to 14, with brother/driver Simon behind all six of his brother's winners and also crossing the wire first twice for trainer Pierre Paradis for an 8-bagger and 16 wins (in the overall 33 pre-season qualies). Fastest of thirteen winners Wednesday, conducted in temperatures that crept up to freezing by midcard, was the intriguing Art Dancer, home first in 1:54.1 for driver Marcus Miller and trainer Mark Harder. The three-year-old altered son of A Rocknroll Dance won his only start at age two, a 1:53.4 victory in July, but he showed no signs of the big layoff as Miller pulled him out past the half, and the pair came home in 56.2 to be clear of the competition. Tomorrow (Thursday) The Downs will hold a press conference at noon, spotlighting the highlights of the 2018 season, the biggest of which will be October 27's $6M Breeders Crown Championship night, which will find the top horses advancing from the previous week's eliminations aiming for the big money and year-end honors in their various divisions. Then on Saturday comes the opening card of the 2018 season at the mountain oval, with the first of 14 races slotted for 7 p.m. The Napolitano brothers, Anthony and George, are each favored to guide home a winner in four of the contests, with Simon Allard tabbed the likely chalk twice. PHHA / Pocono

The 1st Annual Team Allard Yearling Giveaway is in the books, as they say! Rene Allard became the 2017 leading harness racing trainer in both wins and UTRS% at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and to celebrate, Team Allard gave away lots of free stuff! Dave Erickson was the lucky Grand Prize winner and he won 5% of a yearling with Team Allard. That’s right, no gimmicks, no purchase fees, no expenses or bills….His only hardship is to pick either My Sweet Memory (A Sweet Lou filly) or Bettor’s Account (A Bettor’s Delight Colt), the two yearlings selected to choose from. We won’t put any pressure on Dave just yet to select, as he probably will want to research their pedigrees, scan pictures, watch some of the replays of their sires winning Grand Circuit races and setting world records! There were also 8 Consolation prizes offered up to anyone who signed up, including a set of Tim Tetrick Racing colors; New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Gift Bag; Team Allard custom winter jacket; Brian Sears Hall of Fame Memorabilia, and much more!  All winner’s names will be available at The bottom line is that Dave Erickson has never owned a horse...and now he does. He lives in Niagara Falls, and is within driving distance to a lot of racetracks. It’s never too late to get involved in harness racing and now Dave has a reason to bring all of his friends and family to the racetrack and learn all about the sport! In an interview after accepting his award, Rene was excited about the Yearling Giveaway, and looking forward to doing it again next year.  “It gives everybody a chance to get part of it, and we like to give back to the sport we love,” he said.  About his 2017 Leading Trainer award, he was equally emotional, accepting with his parents and brother, Simon Allard at his side, along with members of Team Allard.  “Growing up, I dreamed about racing horses, never mind getting those kind of trophies.”.  He praised his team, saying it is much more than Rene Allard contributing to his award. The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono closes out their 2017 season on Saturday, November 25th.  The Breeders Crown returns October, 2018.   Jennifer Starr with Team Allard

WILKES-BARRE PA - The ABC Garland harness racing gelding ABC Muscles Boy went from the bottom conditioned level at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono to the apex in four victorious steps, trotting through the 33 degree chill and overcoming first-over to win by a length in 1:53.3 in the $20,500 handicap trot. Rene Allard trains the career winner of $285,991 in his current hot 4-for-4 form. Rene's brother Simon had driven him in his three previous starts - but he booked himself off his brother's horse and took Panana Republic, the 5-2 second choice, who then proceeded to get into a speedy early battle with favored B Yoyo, with both of the chalk fading after expending their energy early. Laying off the duel was driver Tom Jackson with ABC Muscles Boy, who went on to the lead with an 1/8 of a mile to go, and then withstood hard-charging Wilberforce. The crowd had reservations about "Muscles"' ability to handle the class jump, as he returned $27.40 to win for Allard Racing Inc. and Earl Hill Jr. PHHA / Pocono

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